Continued low levels of trust in the UK’s energy industry could be remedied by an increase in Government intervention in the market, according to new analysis from Edelman’s 2014 Trust Barometer.
New data revealed from the study shows that more than half of UK citizens polled (56%) would trust the industry more if it were returned to state control, with only 18% stating they trust it more as a privatised industry. Nearly three-quarters (73%) called for additional Government regulation.
Trust in energy in the UK, which has fallen to 31%, is lower than anywhere else globally. This marks a decrease of 6% on 2013 levels, making it the least trusted industry - even below banking. 82% of those that reported lower levels of trust this year attribute the drop to the increasing price of household electricity bills; whilst levels of industry profit were also among top reasons cited. 41% of respondents also said the ongoing debate on the cost of living was likely to impact trust in Government over the course of the next year.
Underlining the extent of the challenge facing both Government and industry, the UK has the least trusted energy sector (31%) of any global energy market, with the global average being 28 points higher (59%).
The poll also revealed that the public wants the energy industry to be a more active participant in the broader debate around energy policy (65%), including providing improved products and services and making structural changes to the industry.
Q1. Thinking about specific sectors within the energy industry, please indicate how much you trust businesses in the following industries to do what is right. Please use a nine-point scale where one means that you ‘do not trust them at all’ and nine means that you “trust them a great deal”. (Trust: 6-9, Neutral: 5, Distrust: 1-4
Rishi Bhattacharya, Managing Director of Energy & Industrials, Europe & CIS at Edelman comments that, “The desperately low levels of trust in energy is a wake-up call for the industry. It is clear that there are high levels of distrust which isn’t surprising give the barrage of headlines about escalating bills. However, recent events in Ukraine have also brought the need for our current and future energy security into sharp focus.
“There is an opportunity for the industry to systematically build levels of trust to avoid the energy industry’s position at the bottom of the table becoming the new normal.”
Jessica Lennard, Director or Energy Public Affairs commented: “It’s a telling sign that with levels of trust in Government at only 42%, the public still say they would trust energy companies more if they were under State control. But levels of Government intervention in the market are already greater than at any time since pre-privatisation, and the debate over price freezes has made clear that satisfying public appetite for more regulation could come at the cost of investment. I suspect the answer is not more, but better, regulation - and more transparency so consumers can understand and trust they are getting a fair deal”.